European Union states have agreed on steps to facilitate the suspension of visa waivers with third countries amid public concerns about a growing wave of migration to the 28-nation bloc.
interior and migration ministers endorsed the emergency brake system during talks in the Belgian capital, Brussels, on Friday.
Dutch Migration Minister Klaas Dijkhoff, who chaired Friday’s meeting, said “visa liberalization has great advantages for the EU and third countries.”
However, he underlined the need for measures to prevent what he called abuse of the visa relaxation rules, saying, “I’m pleased that we agreed today on a mechanism that makes it easier to act against abuse.”
The development comes at a time that the EU is working on lifting visas for citizens of Turkey, Ukraine, Georgia and Kosovo.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve emphasized that more relaxed travel regulations for the four countries were not a matter “of the coming weeks and months.”
He also stressed that visa exemption cannot happen “without precautions, without a managed calendar or in a rush as some want to impose on us.”
Turkey and the EU sealed a contentious deal in March, under which the bloc will take in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from the country and in return will reward Ankara with money, visa exemption and progress in its EU membership negotiations.
Turkey is required to meet 72 conditions, among them narrowing the scope of its anti-terror laws, in order to gain visa liberalization for its 79 million nationals in Europe
’s passport-free Schengen area. However, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan maintains that Turkey will not make any changes to its regulations against terrorism.
Refugees wait to cross the border at a makeshift camp at the Serbian-Hungarian border near the village of Horgos, Serbia, May 19, 2016. ©Reuters
Belgiums top migration official, Theo Francken, said, “To get visa liberalization, it’s important that they change their terrorism law. Mr. Erdogan says he doesn’t want that, so that’s a problem, no?”
Analysts say the EU-Ankara row over the Turkish anti-terror laws could push their refugee deal to the verge of collapse.
The EU is struggling with an unprecedented influx of refugees who are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria.
Many blame major European powers for the unprecedented exodus, saying their policies have led to a surge in terrorism and war in the violence-hit regions, forcing more people out of their homes.